IT’S the 40th anniversary of the Now That’s What I Call Music! compilations. Here are some tracks you’ll never forget, much as you’d like to, because fast-forwarding them was such a pain in the arse.
Red Guitar – David Sylvian
You wondered for years who David Sylvian was. Red Guitar was on NTWICM 3, but that was all you knew about him, like a character in a spy thriller who’s deleted every trace of his past identity. Actually he was the lead singer of long-forgotten new romantic band Japan, and these days is some sort of artist in the States. That information probably wasn’t worth waiting 37 years for.
Dance Me Up – Gary Glitter
It’s unlikely you remember this because DJs are strangely reluctant to play Paul Gadd golden oldies these days. It’s actually quite tuneful, if you like holiday camp-friendly singalong glam-influenced pop. Don’t watch the video though, because Gary donning a tutu to lark about with young ballerinas makes you feel you should call 999.
Only You – The Flying Pickets
NTWICM 2 was a f**king feast of 80s pop: Duran Duran, Nena, Frankie, Thomas Dolby, Cyndi Lauper. Then you got this, a bad a cappella version of the much better Yazoo hit. The singers making ‘bom’ noises is difficult to listen to without laughing. Despite this the media loved it purely for the novelty value and it went to number one, in a weird portent of Susan Boyle.
The Word Girl – Scritti Politti
After punk beginnings, Scritti Politti perfected a brand of sickly reggae-tinged pop with girly vocals. It wasn’t really worth fast-forwarding on NTWICM 5 because the next track was Axel F, mercifully free of the Crazy Frog back then.
China in Your Hand – T’Pau
Due to its massive – some would say ‘sadistic’ – airplay, this naff pop-rock classic was burnt into your brain like a brand. Then you had to listen to it again on NTWICM 10 or face the Herculean task of walking over to your tape deck. There’s only one way you’ll ever forget the words ‘It was a theme she had/ On a scheme he had/ Told in a foreign land…’ and that is the complete annihilation of your brain.
Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell
Were they? Most people had no idea who you were, Rockwell. And who you are is the son of Motown founder Berry Gordy. So while he may not have contributed much to the world of music, in 1984 Rockwell was way ahead of the curve when it came to being a nepo-baby.
The War Song – Culture Club
Live by the compilation, die by the compilation, as they say. You may have been looking forward to Pride by U2, but first you had to listen to this irritating hit with the infamous lyrics ‘War is stupid and people are stupid’. Later on you got Status Quo’s The Wanderer and Gotta Get You Home Tonight by Eugene Wilde to reinforce the arbitrary cruelty of music compilations.
Madam Butterfly – Malcolm McClaren
It’s safe to say this charted solely because it was by Malcolm McClaren. Pretentious as ever, Malcolm decided the world desperately needed electronic opera with spoken bits. No one listened to it, not 12-year-olds like you, not opera buffs, not diehard punks. There are more worthwhile things to do with your time, like sniffing glue.
Sonic Boom Boy – Westworld
Irritating rockabilly revival-type thing that illustrates a grave danger of NTWICM compilations – some of them were f**king random. Don’t like Westworld? How about shit Swedish euro-rock The Final Countdown? Reet Petite? Freddie Mercury’s version of The Great Pretender? If you enjoyed all of those you don’t so much have catholic tastes, more a love of random sounds. Presumably a glass smashing or a hairdryer are just as tuneful to you.
Born to Be Sold – Transvision Vamp
NTWICM 16 was the last of the 80s compilations and times had changed, resulting in a weird mix of Cathy Dennis, unmemorable Queen tracks and Technotronic. And the much-hated Transvision Vamp, back for some more half-arsed posturing over the same chords as Summertime Blues. You’d like to think NTWICM decided to call it day here, but the sausage factory kept grinding. They’re on 116 now, and probably won’t stop until they’ve literally run out of numbers.